History Buffs - recommend me a good US history!

I want to read a single-volume history of the U.S.

I like engaging, insightfully synthesized ideas buttressed by the essential facts.

I dislike minutiae-laden tomes, revisionism, agendas, etc.

If anyone out there has a good one in mind, please share!

Thanks in advance!

Short of a school textbook or a book which contains the things you said you dislike, I don’t think you’ll find too many good single-volume US history books out there.

“A People’s History of the United States” is good for including some things I had never seen before, at least until college, but Howard Zinn isn’t exactly objective and definitely takes out a lot of context and even historical facts when trying to make US history fit into his worldview.

Instead, you may just want to look at a US history chronology and pick out various eras and events which you are interested in or know little about. Jeff Shaara writes pretty decent historical fiction of the Revolutionary war, civil war, Mexican-American war, and WWI. If you have the interest in US history and most importantly the time, you probably want to take this approach anyway since any single-volume history is bound to leave a lot out and won’t always give you a full understanding of how and why something happened - or didn’t.

Two books that I’d recommend, although they’re not a history of the U.S., but a history on two wars, are 1776 by David McCullough and 1812 by Walter R. Borneman.

1776 is about Washington’s campaigns against the British in, oddly enough, 1776. It’s simple to read, but it doesn’t gloss over fact. I liked how the writer incorporated letters into his narrative.

1812 is about that lesser talked about war. I’ve learned more from that book than I did in all my years of high school, which isn’t really saying much.

Then I will humbly suggest to you The Enduring Vision, edited by Paul Boyer. While in general I would concur with the idea that you should pick out individual books for the time periods that are of interest to you (and why not, as U.S. history is a most exciting topic!), this book will probably deliver everything you require.

I found Paul Johnson’s A History of the American People interesting. He’s very opinionated (which makes for fascinating reading if you like that kind of thing; I wouldn’t say he has an agenda, but he very definitely has a point of view), conservative, and pro-American (Johnson is an Englishman, so it’s interesting to read an “outsider’s” view of this country). Probably not good as the only U.S. History to ever read, but it makes a good counterpoint to, say, Zinn’s.

Slightly off-topic, but I loved American Colonies: The Settling of North America, by Taylor. An extremely readable history of the colonization of the entire continent. My goal this year is to read a lot of American history, and I’m glad I started here, it gave me a good base.

All you need to know about US history!

**Bernard DeVoto’s ** majestic Across the Wide Missouri.

Read the first page. The entire book is beautifully written.

I concur with Thudlow Boink’s suggestion of Paul Johnson’s A History of the American People. I recommend reading anything written by Paul Johnson, for that matter.

If you need something basic but intelligently written, there’s DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT AMERICAN HISTORY BUT NEVER LEARNED. It’s sparse but includes a lot of interesting trivia and a decent skeleton on which to lay the flesh and muscle of later readings.

Thanks everyone for the suggestions. I will be checking out several of them.

As for the comment that it’s better to explore smaller areas of interest in more detail, sure - makes sense. I just don’t know enough yet to know what I’m interested in.